Student Work – Eunice W. Johnson and Zelda Rubenstein

Eunice W. Johnson

Eunice W. Johnson

by BELINDA LOVELACE

On January 3, 2010, Eunice W. Johnson died in her Chicago home at the age of 93, due to renal failure.  Born as Eunice Walker, on April 4, 1916 in Selma, Alabama to Nathaniel, (a physician) and Ethel (a high school principal) Walker, she was one of four children.
She attended Talladega College in Alabama, and received a Bachelors degree in sociology in 1938. In 1941, she earned her masters in social work from Loyola University in Chicago. There, at a dance in 1940, she met her future husband John H. Johnson, who passed away in 2005 due to heart failure.
As a favor to a friend, Eunice Johnson produced a fashion show as a fundraiser for a New Orleans hospital in 1958. This soon evolved into the Ebony Fashion Fair which began in 1961 and is held in over 200 cities each year. This fair has managed to raise more than $55 million for civil rights groups, hospitals, community centers and scholarships over the years.
Mrs. Johnson has worked with designers such as Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino to name a few. She made it possible for the first African American models to grace the runways throughout the U.S.A., Canada and the Caribbean along with advancing the careers of many black designers. She served as an inspiration to anyone who was black and interested in the Fashion industry in the 60’s convincing designers like Valentino to incorporate black models in their fashion shows. In this way, she was able to showcase the many skin tones, shapes and sizes of African American models.
Together with her husband in 1942, the Johnson publishing empire began. They started with Negro digest which was to be the Reader’s digest for African Americans. Later, Ebony and Jet magazines were born.
Mrs. Eunice Johnson is survived by her granddaughter, and daughter Linda Rice Johnson, who is currently chairwoman and chief executive of Johnson Publishing.

Dennis Hevesi, Eunice Johnson Dies at age 93; Gave Ebony Its Name, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/business/media/10johnson.html (last visited February 8, 2010).

The Associated Press, Ebony founder Widow Eunice Johnson Dies, http://cbs2chicago.com/local/eunice.johnson.dies.2.1404232.html (last visited February 8, 2010).


Zelda Rubinstein

by “Sandy Noah”

I found a couple of interesting obituaries on the actress, Zelda Rubinstein.  One article refers first and foremost to the movie she was most known for, which was “Poltergeist”. This was produced in 1982 by Steven Speilberg.

The article mentions her appearance in “Poltergeist” specifically when referring to   Her famous line in the movie of “I think this house is clean” as being “a brief bravura turn”.1

Ms. Rubinstein made her film debut in the Chevy Chase comedy “Under the Rainbow” and went on to be in other films such as “Sixteen Candles”, “Teen Witch”, “Anguish”, and became a  regular character on the show “Picket Fences”.

What the public didn’t know about her was the many  difficulties she encountered as a result of  being a “little person”  that would follow her throughout her life. When being interviewed about her childhood, she told PEOPLE magazine that her schoolmates called her “Pigeon” and that there was something about that nickname that froze her”. 2 In 1982 The Chicago Sun Times quoted Zelda as saying that “she had a rough childhood, but became very verbally facile, and learned to met people head-on”.3

Prior to her film career, she even earned a degree in bacteriology and became a lab technician for a blood bank.

In 1985, she told the L.A. Times that she was looking for a way to get involved in the fight against AIDS. During that same time, “L.A.C.A.R.E.S” (Los Angeles Cooperative Aids Risk Reduction Education service) organization approached her to participate in a safe sex campaign. She agreed, knowing that it could jeopardize her career.4

Always the advocate for little people Zelda also founded the Michael Dunn Memorial Repertory Theater company composed of 16 actors, all under 4’6.5

Her Biography states that Ms. Rubinstein was born in 1933.6 The New York Times also mentions that she was born in 1933. However, the Los Angeles Times states that she was born in 1934. Besides birth year discrepencies, there are also other discrepencies surrounding her death. Such as, who the mysterious “companion” was who was with her when she died, or why the only contact information on her is her agent, Eric Stevens, from the “Rainbow High Talent Agency” (which does not exist according to SAG).7 Even “Find A Grave”, (a popular website on grave locations of famous dead people) doesn’t know where she ended up and is requesting information on her. When initially reporting the news of her death, both the N.Y. Times and L.A Times stated that she had no surviving family members. ( L.A Times later reported that the information was reported in error). However, the only accessible information on her family is a FACEBOOK page (under her daughter’s  name) with  brief information on Zelda.

Ms. Rubinstein passed away at the Barlow respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles on January 27th, 2010 and was survived by her daughter Nann Lutz, five grandchildren; and three great-grandchidren.  Besides her film work, She will also be remembered as being an advocate for little people as well as AIDS prevention and cure.

1. N.Y. Times article January 27th, 2010

2.  People Magazine 1982

3. The Chicago Sun Times January 29th, 2010

4. L.A. Times January 28th, 2010

5. Daily Variety January 27, 2010,

6. Bob Hufford biography on Zelda Rubinstein January 27th, 2010

7. Telephone interview with SScreen Actors Guild Agency Representation Department February 10th, 2010

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